With the purchase of a basic home office printer, many people have photo scanning capabilities right at their fingertips. It's easy to pop a photo on the glass, hit scan and a minute or so later have an electronic image. If you have ever been unsatisfied with the results of your photo scanning, you should explore your options on the scanner software because you probably have controls that you can adjust to make your scans better and avoid the need for editing later.
Scanning photographs can be very complex. There are a lot of variables that will affect your results, including the calibration of color on your monitor, and how you are going to use your scan. If you are printing, the settings on the printer and even the type of paper that you use are going to impact your results. I scan photos so that I can use them in video slide shows. The following tips utilize only a fraction of the capabilities of my basic scanner but they help me to get a better result and sometimes allow me to avoid the use of photo editing software before loading the images into a slide show.
1. Sort your photos before scanning
This one doesn't have anything to do with your scanner but it is the biggest time saver. Even if your purpose is to create an electronic archive of your old photos, you should get rid of photos that are blurry or just plain bad. Sort out photos that do not mean anything to you or your intended audience. If your purpose is for creating a video slide show, you only need to scan the photos that will help you tell the story. For a life story show, think of showing the passage of time and scan about 30 - 40 photos for each chapter of the show. See Two strategies for getting your photos ready for a life story video slide show
2. Set your file format and resolution
Whether your purpose for scanning is an archive, a photo book, or a video slide show, you want your file types and sizes to be manageable. JPEG files are easy to use and the file sizes are smaller than other formats like TIFF. You could go really crazy with resolution and end up with a file that is huge! Huge files hold a lot of data but they become unwieldy when you want to put them into a video slide show. Set your resolution to 200 or 300 dpi and check to see what other options you have for size. My goal for my scanned photos is to have a file size of between 1 and 2 MB. Any bigger than that and it uses too much memory within my slide show software.
3. Crop your scan before saving the file
You can end up with white strips or extra area around your photo after scanning. Use the crop tool on your scanner to get rid of this before saving the file.
4. Use the multi-crop tool to scan a batch of photos
The multi-crop tool allows you to fill the scanner bed with photos and scan everything with one pass. I only suggest using this if the photos are all of the same visual quality. For example, I wouldn't mix black and whites with color photos, and I wouldn't mix color photos that have faded with color photos that haven't faded.
5. Explore the settings on your scanner to improve your photos
You probably have more control within your scanner than you realize. With my scanner, I select "Scan with Printer Driver" to access settings that will improve color, minimize dust and scratches, sharpen and more. I use these as best as I can knowing that what I see on my monitor is not going to be how the color looks on every screen. The results that I have are good enough for my purpose, which is to tell life stories with music, words and pictures.
Ready to scan? Give it a try and don't worry if your results are not absolutely perfect. Believe me, when the audience is watching they are not looking for technical imperfections and if anything is a bit blurry or out of focus, it could be because they are watching through eyes that are filled with tears.
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